Reducing Acid Reflux
Acid reflux causes the burning sensation you feel right behind your heart, in the esophagus, which is why we call these symptoms ‘heartburn’. Understanding how your stomach functions and how your lifestyle affects your digestive system can help you take steps to manage or reduce your discomfort. Keep reading to find out how you can make lifestyle changes to improve your health and decrease your heartburn.
What is Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is caused by stomach acid flowing upward, out of your stomach into your gullet. Your stomach lining is equipped to deal with the extreme acidity of this liquid, but your esophagus is much weaker and becomes irritated. The pain that is often associated with this aspect of acid reflux is called heartburn. It is usually caused by food and becomes worse when you lay down. The culprit is typically your gastroesophageal sphincter.
Located just at the opening of your stomach, your gastroesophageal sphincter is a ring of muscles that closes to keep the stomach contents from re-entering the esophagus. However, when this is not functioning properly or effectively, acid can make its way out of the stomach… sometimes all the way to the throat. This can cause a burning sensation, coughing, and/or difficulty swallowing.
Heartburn vs Acid Reflux vs GERD
While some use these terms interchangeably, it is important to know the differences between all three. Acid reflux is the term for the acid backflow that causes the burning feeling in the chest. Heartburn directly refers to that painful burning sensation, but not the condition itself. GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a chronic form of acid reflux. If your acid reflux happens more than twice a week and causes esophageal inflammation it can be characterized as GERD. If you think you may be experiencing GERD, it’s important to talk your doctor about it.
Stomach Acid is not the Enemy
Your stomach is full of hydrochloric acid, responsible for breaking down food while protecting your stomach against bacteria. Your stomach produces more as needed to deal with food as it arrives. Often, reflux is not because of too much in the stomach but rather a displacement. Large meals and laying down or working out after eating are common causes of acid reflux because they cause the fluid to move, not because the stomach is lacking acid. In other cases, low stomach acid means not all food is being broken down, leaving food and bacteria to build up causing bloating, gas, and heartburn.
When to Use Antacids
If you experience heartburn occasionally, using an antacid can help to limit the heartburn symptoms you experience. This is an efficient way to neutralize the acid in your stomach before it can reach the esophagus. However, if you are experiencing acid reflux every time you eat or at the end of each day, it may be time to consider making some lifestyle changes that will help keep your symptoms under control.
Lifestyle Changes to Support Healthy Digestion
There are often healthy, natural ways to limit the discomfort caused by acid reflux. A combination of dietary and lifestyle changes can contribute to a happier digestive system.
What You Eat
There are a number of foods and beverages that contribute to indigestion because they are difficult for your system to process. Simply reducing your alcohol or caffeine intake could make a positive impact on your symptoms. Avoiding items like soda, spicy food and acidic juices or fruit can also reduce the frequency of your heartburn. Trigger foods differ from person to person, for some, even chocolate may set off a reaction. Pay attention to what foods cause your reflux for a better understanding how your diet is affecting your system. A balanced diet, rich in fibrous vegetables and lean protein are easier to break down and take the pressure off your stomach to do all the work.
How You Eat
Eating big meals can make your stomach too full of food, causing the acid in your stomach to rise out through the esophageal sphincter. Eating smaller, more frequent meals can keep your belly happy, without going overboard. If a workout is in your schedule, consider spacing out your meals so you’re not eating right before. The rapid movements, especially squatting or abdominal exercises, can cause the fluids in your stomach to rise. When you eat your last meal of the day, try your best to do so at least 3 hours before bedtime. This gives you a few hours to digest before you lay down for the night.
How You Live
Making lifestyle changes benefits your gastrointestinal system and your overall health. Staying active and maintaining your weight can help lessen your reflux symptoms. Smoking can weaken the esophageal sphincter, causing it to allow acid through more often. Even slouching can cause undue pressure on the stomach, forcing acid to be released into the esophagus. Pregnant women often experience heartburn for this same reason.
A Digestive Aid to the Rescue
To help your system work more efficiently, it’s important to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. We suggest adding ginger, kale, broccoli, parsley, and papaya to your diet. Ginger has been used for hundreds of years as a digestive aid and offers other anti-inflammatory properties. Green vegetables, like kale and broccoli, are highly alkaline which helps your stomach to digest. Papaya contains an enzyme called papain that helps to break down foods. The most notorious herb for encouraging digestion is parsley. It has been eaten medicinally for thousands of years, which is why it’s often served with your meal.
If you struggle to get your daily dose of vitamins and fibre, we have created our Greens Superfood. It’s a mix of 34 fruits, vegetables, and herbs for a delicious mix of nutrients you can enjoy on the go. Among those ingredients, you can find ginger root, kale sprouts, broccoli sprouts, parsley leaf, and freeze-dried papaya. You can mix it with just water or add it to your smoothies for a salad you can sip!